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September 24 Game Notes: Iowa Cubs @ Omaha Storm Chasers

September 24, 2022

IOWA CUBS (66-79) @ OMAHA STORM CHASERS (71-74) Saturday, September 24, 2022 • 6:35 PM • Werner Park • Papillion, NE RHP Anderson Espinoza (0-5, 8.57) vs. RHP Jackson Kowar (4-9, 6.10)


Saturday, September 24, 2022 • 6:35 PM • Werner Park • Papillion, NE

RHP Anderson Espinoza (0-5, 8.57) vs. RHP Jackson Kowar (4-9, 6.10)

TONIGHT’S GAME: The I-Cubs and Storm Chasers are set to play the series finale of their rain-shortened five-game series tonight, with Anderson Espinoza set to go for Iowa. Espinoza has struggled in his seven games (five starts) with Iowa, going 0-5 with an 8.57 ERA. In that time, he has allowed 20 earned runs on 26 hits and 18 walks while striking out 16 batters. Opponents are hitting .317 against the right-hander and he has allowed five home runs in his 21.0 innings pitched. On the other side, Jackson Kowar will get the start for Omaha. Kowar is 4-9 with a 6.10 ERA in 19 starts with the Storm Chasers this year, allowing 54 earned runs on 89 hits and 39 walks while striking out 85 batters over 79.2 innings pitched. Iowa is very familiar with Kowar, seeing him six times last year and twice already this year. In those eight starts against the I-Cubs, the 25-year-old is 3-4 with a 6.08 ERA.

AN IMPRESSIVE FEAT: Darius Hill went 0-for-4 with a walk out of the leadoff spot for Iowa last night, giving him back-to-back games without a hit. On Thursday he was just 0-for-1, lining out in a pinch-hit effort, so he is really just 0-for-5 over those last two hitless games. The last time the outfielder went back-to-back games without a hit was all the way back on August 6 and 7 against Toledo, when he went 0-for-3 in the first game and similarly to Thursday night, went 0-for-1 in a pinch-hit effort. To find the last time Hill went hitless in two full games, you have to go back to July 12 and 13 when he went 0-for-5 and 0-for-4 in back-to-back games against Buffalo. Since those two games, he is hitting .306 (60-for-196) with 24 runs scored, 11 doubles, three triples, two home runs and 26 runs batted in in 53 games for Iowa.

GET IT GOING: Iowa’s offense has been relatively quiet over their last three games, aside from two big innings. It started in what was supposed to be game one of a double header on Wednesday, when they were held to just two runs until the seventh and final inning. They scored four runs in that frame to come back and win by a score of 6-3. Despite scoring six runs, they managed only six hits and struck out six times, going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranding 14 men on-base. In Thursday’s 13-inning marathon, the offensive woes were brought to the spotlight once again. Although Iowa played their longest game of the year in both time (3:48) and innings (13), the offense never could get much going. They scored just four runs on five hits, taking four walks while striking out 15 times. Four of their five hits went for extra-bases, with two doubles and two home runs. Their lone single was an RBI single in the 13th inning to give Iowa the lead at the time. The I-Cubs went just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight men on-base in the one-run loss. In that 5-4 loss, Iowa went six full innings without a hit, going from a double in the top of the sixth all the way to a single in the top of the 13th with the only base runners reaching over that stretch for Iowa coming on walks and the ghost runner to start each extra-inning. Last night was more of the same, as the I-Cubs scored just two runs on five hits, going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, stranding eight men on-base. In the three games combined, Iowa has gone just 16-for-100 as a team, good for a .160 batting average. They are 3-for-29 with runners in scoring position and have stranded 30 runners on-base.

ONE LAST DANCE: Tonight’s game will mark Iowa’s final road game of the year for the 2022 season, entering the game with a 29-44 record on the road this year. Despite being 15 games under .500 on the road, they have a chance to earn their 30th road victory of the year and take the series tonight against the Storm Chasers to give them their second road series win of the season. The I-Cubs currently have just one road win and it came against Omaha back on July 22-24 when they took two of three games out of the All-Star break. Aside from that series, they have split five road series and lost six.

TWO BIG NIGHTS: Christian Donahue came up with a runner on third in the 13th inning of a tied game on Thursday night and delivered a go-ahead single for the I-Cubs. That single was his first career Triple-A hit and although it didn’t end up being enough for Iowa to get the win as they surrendered two runs in the home half of the inning, it was a clutch hit for the infielder. Last night he crossed another one off the list, as the 27-year-old clubbed his first career Triple-A home run to give Iowa their first run of the game and cut their deficit in half. It was his first home run since July 28, 2019, when he hit a two-run home run for Double-A Tennessee against Chattanooga.

FINAL FRAMES: Anderson Espinoza will take the mound today to start what will likely be his last appearance of the 2022 season. That marks the end of a rollercoaster season for the righty, who is in his second year back after missing four years of playing time due to injuries. He began his 2022 campaign in Tennessee, where he finished the 2021 season, and remained there until May 30, when he was called up to Chicago for his Major League debut. After jumping between the Smokies and the Cubs throughout June, Espinoza finally made his Triple-A debut on July 24. He made two appearances for Iowa before rejoining the Cubs, where he stayed for three weeks before returning to Iowa, where he has remained since August 27. All the movement has created instability in Espinoza’s schedule and role; he started 12 of his 13 games for Tennessee, pitched exclusively as a reliever in Chicago and has bounced between the two jobs in Iowa. Through all of it, he has struggled to find consistent success. Espinoza has earned just one win this season - June 28 with Tennessee - and one save - July 24 with Iowa - but has been credited with 11 losses between the three levels he has played at. He pitched to a 1-5 record at Double-A, an 0-5 record at Triple-A and an 0-1 mark in MLB. The 11 losses tie a single-season career high for Espinoza, who went 6-11 at Single-A in 2016, while his one win would match his total from last season, when he went 1-3 between Advanced-A and Double-A.

TWO-FOR-ONE: Despite their relative inexperience, Iowa’s infield defense has been on-point this series so far. The five infielders on the I-Cubs’ active roster have been error-free through the first four games of the series and they’ve also contributed to eight double-plays in that span. All five members of that group have played a part in at least three double-plays each, including Scott McKeon, who made his Triple-A debut on September 14, and Christian Donahue, who had appeared in just four Triple-A games prior to the current series. Trent Giambrone has turned three double-plays at second, Levi Jordan has been part of four between third base and shortstop, and Matt Mervis has finished off seven at first base. Adding in Tuesday’s 8-2 double-play and Thursday’s 1-5 double-play, the I-Cubs have turned nine double-plays so far this series and tied their single-game season high of three twice.

THE NIGHTMARE CONTINUES: Steven Brault joined Iowa’s roster on September 20 for game one of this series in Omaha and pitched that day. It was his first game action at any level since getting placed on the 15-day injured list with a left shoulder strain back on August 24. In that game, the southpaw struggled, allowing four earned runs without retiring a single batter. He surrendered the four earned runs on four hits and one walk, throwing just 12 of his 22 pitches for strikes. Unfortunately for Brault and the I-Cubs, he wasn’t any better in his second Major League rehab outing last night. Once again, Brault allowed four earned runs without retiring a single batter. He faced five men, allowing three hits, a walk, a home run and hit one batter before trainers came to the mound and he exited the game. He threw seven of his 18 pitches for strikes in the contest.

AGAINST OMAHA: Iowa and Omaha the fifth and final game of their five-game series tonight, with the series currently tied at two games apiece. The I-Cubs took each of the first two games, but Omaha has won the last two as the teams will meet for the deciding fifth game tonight. The loss brought Iowa’s record this year against the Storm Chasers to 13-6 while going 322-295 all-time against Omaha. It also marked their 160th road loss all-time to Omaha, where they are now 145-160. After dropping last night’s contest by eight runs, Iowa’s lead in the season scoring dropped to 18 runs, at 104-86.

SHORT HOPS: A loss for the I-Cubs tonight would make it impossible for them to have over a .500 record in the month of September, meaning they would finish the season without a single winning month…Manager Marty Pevey is four wins away from reaching the 600-mark with Iowa, but with just four games left to play, the I-Cubs need to win out to get their skipper his 600th career win at the helm…Iowa took five more walks last night, giving them 29 total walks through the first four games of the series; their 29 walks this series ties a season high for walks in a single series… Kyle Johnson and Peyton Remy each made their Triple-A debut last night, both throwing scoreless innings for Iowa.